How to Pass a Kidney Stone

Woman laying on the couch holding her stomach in pain

Kidney stones are hard mineral deposits that form in your kidneys from salts found there. Passing a kidney stone typically doesn’t cause permanent damage, but it can be very painful. 

What does it feel like to pass a kidney stone? Patients report that they experience:

  • Pain or burning sensation while urinating
  • Sharp, intense pain below the ribs on their side and back
  • Pain in the lower abdomen and groin
  • Pain that comes and goes and varies in intensity

Consequently, people who have them typically want to know how to pass kidney stones fast!

How Long Does It Take to Pass a Kidney Stone?

Passing kidney stones typically takes several weeks and can take a few months. Two factors affect the time it takes to pass kidney stones:

 Size

The smaller a kidney stone is, the easier it is to pass and the faster the process is completed. Stones that are 4 mm or less in size average approximately 31 days to pass. Those 4 to 6 mm may require treatment but tend to pass in around 45 days. 

Location

Where a stone is located in the ureter also affects the time it takes to pass it. Those at the end of the ureter closer to the bladder pass faster than those nearer to the kidney. 

How Can I Speed Up Passing a Kidney Stone?

If you’re wondering how to help pass a kidney stone, below are five steps you can take. Some of them help break up and move a kidney stone; others help you fight the pain, since being in discomfort can make it feel like time’s standing still. 

  1. Drink plenty of fluids
  2. Stay active
  3. Take pain medicine as needed and as directed
  4. Take a hot bath or shower to decrease your pain while you wait for pain relievers to kick in
  5. Take medication if prescribed by your doctor to dilate the ureter

How Do You Know When a Kidney Stone Is About to Pass?

Often, as a kidney stone is getting closer to being passed, it creates problems with urination. This can include the frequent and urgent need to urinate and problems with flow. Pain when urinating is another sign of an advancing kidney stone.


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What Is the Best Thing to Drink If You Have Kidney Stones?

Drinking these beverages can help if you have kidney stones:

  • Water. Drinking more water causes you to urinate more. This keeps the stone moving and helps prevent it from growing. A good target for water consumption is 2 to 3 quarts per day. 
  • Citrus juice. Citrus juices are helpful because they contain citrate. It’s a chemical that can help break up small stones. It may not have a large effect on a stone, but every little bit helps. Plus, consuming citrus juices in moderation can help prevent the formation of kidney stones. 
  • Apple cider vinegar. The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar helps dissolve kidney stones. 
  • Pomegranate juice. Pomegranate juice is believed to improve kidney function, help flush stones and toxins from your system, and lower your urine acidity level, which can help prevent stones from forming in the future.
  • Basil juice. Another natural source of acetic acid, basil juice can help break down kidney stones and reduce pain. Plus, it’s packed with nutrients. You can use fresh or dried basil leaves to make several cups of tea each day.

The amount of help these beverages will provide in passing a kidney stone continues to be studied, but all of them have other health benefits. So when consumed in moderation, they certainly won’t hurt you. 

Non-Surgical Treatment for Kidney Stones

There are multiple non-surgical treatments for kidney stones, including:

  • Calcium channel blockers. More often used to control high blood pressure, these medications can stop the ureter from spasming and help a kidney stone pass. 
  • Alpha blockers. As with calcium channel blockers, these medications relax muscles in the ureter, which can help you pass a kidney stone and reduce your pain. 
  • Lithotripsy. This is a non-surgical procedure that uses high-energy sound waves to break up a stone so it can be passed more easily. 

In some instances, like when a kidney stone is especially large, is blocking urine flow, or is accompanied by an infection, surgery may be necessary to remove it. 

Learn more about kidney stones from Baptist Health. If you’re experiencing pain associated with kidney stones, contact your health provider. If you don’t have a provider, find one near you using our online provider directory.


Next Steps and Useful Resources

Find a Provider
What Helps Prevent Kidney Stones?
What to Know About Kidney Stones
What Causes an Overactive Bladder?

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